School Daze 1950

Ever since I’d taught my next-door neighbour to read – we were both four years old – I was obsessed with the idea of going to school. If my big brother could go, why couldn’t I?

I’d always loved books. Probably my mom instilled that love in me by reading to me every night at bedtime. Winnie-the-Pooh was my favourite, hands down, especially since she read the stories with all the dramatic expression worthy of a Broadway star! From squeaky Piglet to saaad Eeyore: it wasn’t hard to fathom why I begged her to read the stories again and again. Bless her, she always complied.

So as a curious child with a penchant for books, I was dying to go to school, the source of even more of them. At only four, I wasn’t legally permitted to start Kindergarten yet… you had to be five. But that didn’t stop me from nagging my mother into trying to get me into a class – somewhere, anywhere!

I cajoled her into schlepping me – on foot – from one elementary school to another, all over the Snowdon district of Montreal where we lived. One by one, they all said no: Van Horne School, Iona School, and others whose names escape me. Finally we arrived at the last on the list: Royal Vale School, then located between Clanranald and Macdonald Avenues, near Dupuis. I’ll never forget that fateful encounter.

We trudged into the lobby and found our way to the principal’s office, both of us practically holding our breath, hardly daring to hope. “Come in,” came a sweet woman’s voice, when my mother knocked on the door.

As we entered her cramped office, she looked me up and down – there wasn’t much to see, as I was tiny, as well as being young – and I studied her in response. I saw a slim bird-like woman wearing a skirt and cardigan, pearls, a halo of fluffy white hair, and a broad smile.

“Well hello!” she said, beaming down at me. “And what’s your name?”

“Ellen,” I piped up. I liked this lady already!

“And how old are you, Ellen?”

“Four!”

At this point my mom interjected an apology, to the effect that she knew children starting school had to be five, but I had nagged her and nagged her, and, well, here we were.

Miss Dixon, for that was the principal’s name, seemed to ignore my mother, and continued questioning me. “Do you know when your birthday is, Ellen?”

Oh yes I did! “October eighth,” my voice rang out confidently.

Miss Dixon gasped. “Really? Why, that’s my birthday too!”

Smiles broke out all around! We hadn’t counted on this!

She leaned in closer, “Can you count to ten for me, Ellen?”

Oh yes I could! Triumphantly my voice announced, “One, two, three, five, seven, nine, ten!!”

Er… somehow I suspected that recitation didn’t take as long as it should have – but Miss Dixon was grinning even more broadly now.

And that is how I started attending Royal Vale School in September, 1950, at the tender age of four years, eleven months.

15 thoughts on “School Daze 1950

  1. Oh my dear ___ (I’m so sorry, your first name escapes me… all I can think of is “Lily June’s mom”!) – A.A. Milne!! Let us count the ways!!!! I *STILL* have all 3 (or maybe 4?!) of his books, originals, dated *1927*!! They are – as u can imagine – falling apart! But I will never let ’em go! They ARE my early childhood, y’know? And in them, in my brother’s grade 2 scrawl, is printed “To my sister Ellen for her burthday” or the equivalent – so in other words, when I got them, they were already hand-me-downs from my bro! lol Doesn’t matter!! I still adored them!!! The “heffalump”! Piglet, mistaken for baby Roo by Kanga, and having to endure a BATH!! Never never tired of them! Your daughter will always love u for this alone, if nothing else! lol!

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  2. What an adorable story, Ellie. Congrats on getting into kindergarten at the tender age of four years & 11 months. By the way, you are a Libra like I am. I’m October 19. Do you also have a problem making decisions like I do? That’s because Libras have to weigh both sides of everything. Take care.

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    1. Thanks Anna!
      Yes I am *exactly* like that!! LOL! I drive myself nuts re decision-making! It’s a curse of our sign. On the other hand, I’ve read that “Libra is the most popu lar

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      1. I didn’t know that we were the most popular sign of the zodiac. We are the only one that is not represented by a living thing (human or animal). Just some scales, but that only shows that we are “well balanced”.

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  3. This made me smile – so you only missed a few numbers in that recitation, but you were nervous. Ms. Dixon “got it” and allowed you to start. That was a cute story and I know I memorized all those books as my mom read them to me, then I read them myself. Then it was “The Bobsey Twins” … how I loved to read. Thank goodness for our moms instilling our love for reading and learning in us. I’m wondering if you saw my comment on your “About Me” page as I don’t see it now … I discovered what I had previously thought – that you were Canadian. I wondered when you said “Grade 9” when you passed along the spelling bee post and when we chitchatted about grammar and you said “Grade 2” … here in the States, we say “9th grade” or “2nd grade” … the reason I remarked to you on your “About Me” page is because I am Canadian as well, though I’ve lived here since 1966, I have never changed my citizenship. Did you have “double promotion” in school? I skipped Grade two and Grade four after taking an aptitude test. I was not an exceptional student, but those two grades are considered repeat grades of what you learned in Grade 1 and Grade 5, so if you passed you skipped onto Grade 3 and Grade 5, respectively. Most of our class did this. I ended up graduating high school here in the States having barely turned 17. Most of my classmates were already 18.

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    1. I was more into the Cherry Ames series than the Bobbsey Twins. Your About Me comment disappeared!! There’s a ghost in the machine, I swear! Yes, I realize that grade thing gives me away as Canadian, haha! Hi fellow Canuck! Please let’s take more discussion to email as this is very long and no longer relating to my post. Thankee kindly!

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